Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

The last two years we've posted my thoughts on Memorial Day. This year I thought we should have something new.

Memorial Day is set aside as a day to remember those who have died in combat, while Veterans Day is for honoring all who served. For most of the population, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer and a three-day weekend. For the roughly 10% who have served in the armed forces, Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor our brothers in arms who didn't make it home alive.

The American observance of Memorial Day began after the Civil War/War Between the States. There are a few different versions of precisely when it started, but by the end of WW2 it was celebrated across the country. The federal government moved the date from May 30th to the last Monday in May with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968. Moving holidays to Mondays makes for convenient three-day-weekends.

Other countries remember their war dead on different days -- usually in November to commemorate the end of WW1, which was one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.
  • Germany has a “Peoples Mourning Day” (Volkstrauertag ) in November for those lost in all wars, with ceremonies varying by province. 
  • Britain and France use Armistice Day, November 11th, to mark the end of WW1 and remember the dead from all wars.
  • Italy marks November 4th as the day Austria-Hungary surrendered to Italy at the end of WW1, and commemorates all soldiers killed in action. 
  • Australia and New Zealand celebrate ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day on April 25th to mark the landing at Gallipoli during WW1. This marked the beginning of a national identity for both countries, formerly colonies of Great Britain.
  • Turkey uses March 18th to celebrate Martyr's Day and remember all who have died for their country. Oddly, March 18th marks the Turkish victory over Allied troops at Gallipoli during WW1.
Even though WW1 was fought almost a century ago, the impact of that war lead to WW2 and the damage from both is still being felt. The small cemetery/memorial in Germany pictured to the left was started to honor soldiers that died in WW1 and WW2.

The last interment took place in 1953. That means that they were still finding bodies in fields and ditches 8 years after the end of the war.

America has been lucky that very little war has been fought on our soil in the last century, but it also makes it harder for people to recognize the total impact of those wars, as we don't have the daily reminders of the human costs of war that exist in other parts of the world.

We also have a volunteer military now, and I feel that has led to a certain amount of separation of civilians from soldiers, as evidenced by the desecration of war memorials and graves that has been happening more frequently in recent years. Since only a small percentage of our population serves in the armed forces, there's now no reason for Americans to respect those who died in wars unless they have lost a friend or loved one.


As for me, I will be visiting local cemeteries and memorials this Memorial Day. Living in a small town, in a rural area, we still keep track of friends and neighbors that died in all of the various wars. The local Boy Scouts will have placed flags on the graves of veterans in the local cemeteries, which is something they do as a part of their public service program. 

Enjoy your weekend, but I ask that you take a minute to raise a toast to those who died for your freedom to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to